Mithya – मिथ्या – means unreal that which very much appears to be real but which is not real. When I look at the world, it appears as though the world can fulfill my desire of attaining immortality. The things and beings and achievements generally create this impression in me or may seem to give me the promise that through them I can attain immortality. And it is only for that reason that I am always running after material achievements. They have this fascination, the attraction.
That happiness comes from objects is my conclusion but it is not right. Happiness does not come from any object in the world. It only comes from within, from myself. How come than when I contact the objects I seem to experience happiness? That happiness is akin to that of a dog chewing a dry bone which does not have even a drop of blood in it. The dog chews it for hours together, thinking there is blood in it. But in fact he enjoys the very blood that is coming from the wounds that the bone has made in his mouth but thinks that the happiness, or the taste comes from the bone. So also when the happiness appears to come from the objects, in reality it only comes from myself.
What does this knowledge do? It creates the right attitude towards the world. The world is not useful for attainment of immortality that I want to gain. So I must give it up. That is how people take sannyasa – सन्यास. But that is not proper. An aversion for the world, a hatred for the world, a rejection of the world is not desirable. Nothing should be rejected. Why is the world there? If the things and beings and the wealth and achievements cannot serve the purpose that I want them to serve, why at all should they be there? Well, they cannot serve the purpose that I want them to serve. But they serve some other purpose and that is why they are there. The world is called Mithya – मिथ्या only inasmuch as it cannot give me immortality, but that does not mean that the world does not exist or that it should be rejected as useless.
The other day I was invited for bhiksa भिक्षा at some place. I went there, and as the door was open I entered the hall. There was a dining table nicely set up but no food had yet been served. The lady of the house was inside and I was feeling very hungry. I noticed there were some beautiful fruits on the dining table and what attracted me the most was a beautiful apple. Since there was nobody around, I quietly picked up the apple. And as soon as I picked it up I came to know that the apple was Mithya – मिथ्या, it was false. It was a wooden apple placed on this modern dining table which was also decorated with beautiful flowers and fruits; all of them were artificial. They were so lively and so attractive that we would take them to be real.
So just because the sense of perception seems to say it is real, a thing need not be real. The apple was very beautiful, very attractive. Only when I picked it up and started biting it, did I come to know that it was not a real apple, that it was a wooden one. It is called Mithya – मिथ्या – apple. It is Mithya – मिथ्या inasmuch as it cannot serve the purpose of an apple to appease my hunger, which it very much seems to be promising to do. But that does not mean that it is useless or that it has no purpose. It is beautiful and its purpose is to decorate the table. I should not hate the apple or throw it away just because it cannot appease my hunger.
I should not throw away the things in the, world just because they cannot appease my hunger. They are not meant for that. This flower cannot appease my hunger, for that is not the purpose the flower is meant to serve. Inasmuch as the world cannot appease my hunger of immortality, from that standpoint I can say that the objects, the things and the beings in the world are mithya’. But it does not mean that the things are non-existen or that they are not beautiful. In fact a wooden apple may look more beautiful than a real one. ‘So no doubt the world is a beautiful thing to enjoy, but the manner in which it should be enjoyed is different. By eating it, that apple cannot be enjoyed. It is to be enjoyed by looking at it as a piece of art. That apple is not an object of eating.
Thus we come to the most beautiful and the most fantastic way of relating ourselves to the world. In our colloquial language we use the word Mithya – मिथ्या to mean imaginary or non- existent or wrong. Therefore people develop an aversion for the world. Mithya’ means that-it does not serve the purpose it seems to promise to serve but it does serve some other purpose. It is an object of adoration. It is an object of appreciation. Once I understand this, my relationship with the apple changes. Earlier, when I didn’t know the real nature of the apple, I looked upon it as an object of enjoyment. I expected it to appease my hunger taking it to be my food. I may touch it, I may smell it and I may even try to cut it with a knife. That is I may examine it well from all the sides, to know its’ real
Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati